French President Emmanuel Macron is calling for a "real European army" to allow the European Union to defend itself against Russia and even the United States.
Macron, who has pushed for a joint EU military structure since taking over the French presidency, said in a radio interview on November 6 that Europe needed to be less dependent on America.
"We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia, and even the United States," Macron told Europe 1.
"We will not protect Europeans unless we decide to have a true European army," he added.
Macron wants a nine-member European force, separate from NATO, that could intervene on short notice in conflicts or provide aid after natural disasters.
The nine countries' defense ministers are set to meet for the first time on November 7 in Paris to start thrashing out details of how the force would operate.
The EU is due to step up its defense spending beginning in 2021, earmarking some 13 billion euros ($15 billion) over seven years to research and develop new equipment.
Twenty-five EU countries have also pledged to better coordinate their defense cooperation with a program of joint military investment and project development, an initiative known as permanent structured cooperation, or PESCO.
The upcoming exit from the EU of Britain, long opposed to European military collaboration, has revived talk of defense cooperation, as have concerns that U.S. President Donald Trump may be less inclined than his predecessors to come to Europe's defense in the face of a newly assertive Russia.